The Animal Farm

February 24th, 2010

TV Shows: The Other Half

I’ve also been keeping up with a handful of TV shows that I adore, so I thought I’d take a cue from Zach and post my own list. I’m going to keep mine brief though.

Lost
Lost is a show that from day one has done character development Right (note the capital R). The main story takes some crazy twists and turns, some good and some bad, but it all comes back to the characters. Every season is compelling, and that’s saying a lot for a show that’s running its sixth season.

Burn Notice
Burn Notice is just fun. There’s little substance, no depth - it’s candy, but it’s the delicious candy you constantly reach for without realizing, and before you know it the bag’s empty. That analogy got away from me, but the point is this: if you don’t end an episode daydreaming about being a super spy, it’s a character flaw you have and no fault of the show.

Flight of the Conchords
Where Burn Notice is fun, Flight of the Conchords is funny. It’s dead-pan (practically British) humor with a lot of wit and charm. And good songs.

Skins
I honestly can’t recommend Skins. It’s full of weird teenage angst and dramatic kids. It’s a guilty pleasure, and it was a full two seasons of guilty pleasure. Don’t watch it. But I’m glad I did. Kind of. Sometimes.

I tried Caprica. Didn’t take.

February 24th, 2010

TV Shows

I’ve recently started watching some newer TV shows weekly and I figured I’d make a post about them.  These shows really don’t have much in common, I guess, but they are the shows that I personally put on the DVR every week.

Flash Foward.

This is a show about every single person in the world seeing what they would be doing on a day in the future at the same time.  They all see the same day and same time, but of course different things, since they are all doing different things.  The day isn’t that far in the future, something like a year or maybe less, not entirely sure as the show has been on hiatus for several months now.  The show then follows the characters in trying to figure out what the flash foward, as they call it, means and why it happened.  Some of the characters are trying desperately to make that future they saw come true, others are trying to make it not come true.  There are a few interesting things about this show:

First, they bring about the idea of people who don’t have flash fowards, as in they assume they die before that date happens.  This is the case for one of the main characters, but also an entire “cult” of people.  These people assume they will be dead before that date happens, and as such go on to live a life of pure hedonism and craziness.  It is an interesting concept, I think.  Second, the main character of the show is an FBI agent whose flash forward is of him in the process of solving the case of what caused the flash forwards.  He basically recreates his evidence and lead board from his flash forward and attempts to find out why the information on the board in the future is there.  It is a little self fulfilling prophecy and a little bad detective work, I guess.  The show does a pretty good job of making the self fulfilling prophecy part go away though, so it looks like the “evidence and leads” he blindly put on the board are legitimate in solving the mystery.  The show never really discusses the fact that the future they saw could have been of them having the flash foward, sort of a reverse grandfather paradox in that the lead board the main character had in the flash forward, and copied into the current, was there in the future because future him had the same flash forward.  I try my best to ignore time travel paradoxes in stories, but they happen so often it is hard.  Before the long, long, hiatus of the show (November to March, I think), they started showing the “antagonists” of the series, the one’s who at least think they caused the flash forwards.  They attempt to explain what they did with some quantum mechanics.  While they don’t go into to much detail, quantum mechanics are hard for me to understand, because I am dumb.  Quantum tunneling and entanglement, I am pretty sure, are the basis of the dark arts.  At any rate, the show’s first part of its first season is available, I’d recommend a rental.

Caprica.

When I had heard they were going to be creating  a spiritual prequel to Battlestar Galactica I got really excited.  I was really hoping I would like the new show. And I do.  Mind you it is nothing like Battlestar Galactica at all, really.  It just shares a few of the names we have come to hear commonly in that show.  The  show really covers the Adama family, mostly Bill Adama’s father, uncle, and grandmother,  and another family, the Greystone family.  The Greystone family are the inventors of the Cylon, well, sort of.  I like the show so far, though I am not entirely sure I dig the idea of an entire planet of gangsters, maybe the Taurons on Caprica are like the early Italians in early America, they take their tradition of family to the extreme when surrounded by outsiders who don’t understand them.  I hope so, I am really not sure how an entire planet of gangsters could function at all.  If you liked Battlestar I would recommend giving this show a watch.

I’d say the only thing they might have done wrong is make the idea of the One True God very prevalent in the story line.  On one hand this greatly explains how the Cylons come to believe in this entity, on the other hand it completely wrecks the stories in Battlestar Galactica when none of the citizens in the fleet recognize this idea at all.  They may fix this with some sort of Orwellian banashment of all knowledge of the religion later in the series, but if not I think it creates a rather large plothole in BSG retroactively.

The Deep End.

Not much I can say about this show, it has Mac from Veronica Mars in it, which is a huge plus I think.  The show is an episodic format about the day to day activities of a high powered law firm.  Not entirely sure I really like the show’s premise, which has been done to death, but it entertains me for the hour it is on a week.

Archer.

I’ve watched one episode of this fantastic cartoon, and I needs moar.  It very much reminds me of Frisky Dingo, and we all know that show was brilliant.  I definitely plan on watching as much of this show as I can in the coming months.  I may even buy it.

Modern Family.

This show is absolutely brilliant in every way.  Morgan and I laugh for pretty much the entire episode every episode.  I highly recommend you watch this show.  Pure comedic gold.

I am actually pretty pleased to have some shows to look forward to each week that aren’t Heroes lately.  It is nice having something to watch on the DVR whenever I feel like watching something.   Also, Dollhouse was always on my playlist each week, but the show is over now, so I don’t think I’ll be watching it again anytime soon.  I enjoyed that show a lot though.

~Zach

February 21st, 2010

See the Light 1.1 Feature List

Here are the improvements that I can confirm will be in and are either finished or in the works:

(1) Bug fixes. Notably one crash bug that three people have found and another issue where you can move around the cursor while the help is showing.
(2) Better graphics. Laura is helping. Even small changes have added a 120% improvement. That number is completely made up and arbitrary.
(3) 16 new levels.
(4) One new piece that makes the 16 new levels more interesting. It changes the puzzle dynamic in a large way while not completely breaking the core mechanics.
(5) Awardments. Like Achievements, but we can’t use those in XBLIG games. So it will have no impact on your Xbox gamer score - it’s just for your personal amusement. Fifteen are implemented.
(6) Improved controls. I’m changing it so you can hold down the thumbstick and the cursor will move faster instead of having to do a ‘press and release’ each time.
(7) Custom soundtracks.

And here are things that are under the “would be nice; I’ll play around with it, but it’s probably not going to happen.”
(1) Level editor. That’s a not-insignificant engineering requirement and has a lot of usability implications.
(2) Multiplayer. I thought about adding a timer and doing something split screen or allowing multiple people to work on levels cooperatively. The first option is non-trivial and the second isn’t hard but doesn’t add a lot of value.
(3) A Windows trial. This would require XNA installed and all the good fun that entails.

None of the above are impossible. But they’re a lot of work for speculative value - the game gets about a trial a day, so investing the time we are investing is already mostly for personal gratification and not for actual sales, so I’m not going to break my back.

February 17th, 2010

Reasons Developing in Objective-C Sucks

That’s right. I’m doing Objective-C development. And here are some of the reasons it makes me a little sick:

(1) XCode. If you even think about arguing that one, you’re Wrong.
(2) UITableView. I’ve never seen a more convoluted list view. Sure, it’s powerful. And about 20x more complicated than it needs to be for simple things.
(3) Errors as warnings. Half the things that will break your program will only break at run-time when other reasonable languages can report them at compile time. Sometimes you get warnings. Sometimes you don’t.
(4) Stupid stupid function syntax. Both at declaration and usage. Hey, look, named arguments! Hey, look, the names are pretty much fluff!
(5) NSArray and NSMutableArray. The only language I’ve seen where you can’t store numbers in an array without wrapping them inside an object. The only language I’ve seen where you can’t change what’s in a fixed-size array (not just how big it is). And no type safety on top of that, not that “safety” of any form is really the language’s strong suit.
(6) Comparing a uint to an int treats the int as a uint! So if you have uint a = 1; int b = -2 and do: if (b < a) you get false. I tried to think of something more counter-intuitive. I failed.
(7) No pure virtual (that I know of). You can get the run-time equivalent by putting an assert in the method you intend to be pure virtual, but… ew.
(8) Completely optional “constructors/destructors.” It’s completely up to the caller to decide if something should be properly initialized/freed.
(9) “Private” access is mostly a suggestion. You can completely bypass it by, well, calling the private function if you know it exists.
(10) A wonky animation system in UIView. You’re better off just rolling your own.

This is just preliminary. I’m not ready to fight against Objective-C in earnest. I’m warming up to really hating it. When I’m ready, I expect I’ll lose some friends.

Only a ginga…

February 12th, 2010

See the Light 1.1 in the Works

Thought I’d make a friendly announcement: I’m currently working on an update to See the Light.

The update will contain the following:
* Fixes for bugs people have found since release.
* At least 10 new levels.
* Added visual flair/polish.

I don’t have an ETA, since I’m still not certain all the changes I’ll be making, but it’s definitely coming. It will be free to those who have already purchased 1.0.

No. I’m not going to post that.

February 2nd, 2010

Heroes and other goings-on

First off, I’m sorry to hear about Word Duelist, Brian.  The game looks very fun and if you ever decide to develop for the iPhone, I’d buy it.  I suppose I could buy a three-six, but that would cost ME money.  From the screenshots, website, and trailers, it looks really good.

Heroes is moderately to fairly interesting this season, depending on the episode and my mood when asked.  I think Samuel has the potential to be a cool villain, but only if his motivation for extreme power is better than some need for the XO’s wife to love him.  I really hope this isn’t the case.  I haven’t watched this week’s episode, though, so more might have been revealed.  Also, I’ve said it before but I feel like saying it again, Peter, Sylar, Matt, and Hiro need to DO something.  They were very pivotal characters in the first season, all of them have (in Peter’s case I guess had) awesome powers, and they just don’t do anything, ever.  Every second of them on the screen is wasted, completely wasted.  Also, Claire and Noah need to get over it and either not be on the show or start contributing to something.  Basically if the season was about Samuel’s rise to power with the Heroes chiming in to help/slow his rise, like about 10-15 minutes of each episode is, all the time, it could really be a great show.  As it stands now, most of the characters I really liked from season one are just fluff.  Actually, all of them I think.

Morgan and I bought a house two weeks ago.   We are very excited to move in, but won’t be doing so until April this year, due to our lease with the apartment and the seller not wanting to leave until then.  This actually works out in our favor, since I am not sure we can afford a rent and mortgage every month.  At best we would be eating ramen 3 meals a day.  If and when you take a gander at those photos in the link, please excuse the colors chosen for the place.  We plan on repainting/flooring the entire place before we officially move in in June.  Also, I will FINALLY be able to have  a cat again.  I’ve wanted/missed having a cat since I moved down here.  Nibble was very nice to have around the apartment, and before that my parents had always had cats.  I really miss having a cat.

Zach

February 1st, 2010

Word Duelist Delayed… Again

A reviewer found a crash bug in Word Duelist. Which means I’ve pulled the game, fixed the bug, and will be resubmitting it in a week. Which means you can expect to see the game in about three weeks minimum.

I’d like you to keep in mind that fully seven people have passed this game in review without finding this bug, which was not an especially hard one to find. This leads me to my frustration with the review process when bugs are concerned:

(1) Your game took about two weeks before anyone discovered a bug.
(2) There is now a 7 day wait. For a one line fix. It doesn’t matter if you’ve pulled your game voluntarily (which I did last time for a non-fail bug) or it failed outright.
(3) There is then a 7 day wait (approximately) before the game flies under anyone’s radar. It will be at the bottom of a four or five page list (if you’re lucky), where most reviewers will never look past the first.
(4) There is then about a 7 days wait before any reviewers do their job and find bugs if they exist. Most reviewers appear to only look at the game’s box art and pass it. Hence delay (1).

So a single bug costs you, if you’re lucky, at least three weeks but more like a month.

And that’s if you don’t have an Xbox Live component and are not supporting languages other than English. If you’re doing either of those, expect any of those stages to take longer. Especially supporting other languages. I’ve watched games outright fail after a month of not getting enough reviews simply because the reviewers weren’t there (don’t get me started on how the community suggests you fix that problem; I wanted to scream reading that particular forum post). It’s sad when a game that supports five languages has to strip them out because, well, it supports too much.

Now we talk about how you alleviate this:

You can’t.

Of course, you can put up a game without any bugs, which is the preferred scheme. And in a perfect world that would happen all the time. But let’s assume for a moment that, like real studios, bugs happen.

You’re not allowed to incentivize reviews. Which makes sense - providing an incentive is more like providing incentive for passing reviews, which breaks the whole system. You’re not allowed to ask for them either. Which I suppose makes sense; they don’t want to clutter the forum with review begging.

Many people, including moderators, readily admit that they won’t look too hard at people who haven’t given back to the community in the form of playtests/reviews. I’ll try to keep this post off of the side rant that I paid money to gain access to this system and now to actually *use* the system I have to jump through their hoops. I’ll also try to keep off the note that this in itself is an incentive for review, which may be a reason why games get mindlessly passed so often. Back on track, let’s assume you’re doing this. I’ve monitored the progress of people who do this (I myself have playtested and reviewed a number of games), and I can’t see that it actually makes a great deal of difference.

Which leaves you pretty much back to the basics.

I’d hate to whine (and I’ll readily admit that’s all this post amounts to) about a system without actually providing an alternative, so here are a few:

(1) Mandatory reviews upon submission. The opposition seems to think that this will invite gaming the system as though it’s not gamed already. Obviously you penalize drive-by reviewers and you leave open the optional reviews. This has the added benefit that people submitting games actually have to know the common fail points and will thus submit better games.
(2) Dedicated reviewers. It’s something virtually everyone in the community is opposed to and will never happen, which is unfortunate. Note that I did not say “paid reviewers.” Keep them as peers, that’s fine. But give them the same roles as moderators have with forums - they are expected to spend some percentage of their day doing their job.
(3) Allow review trading. There’s no good reason not to. It doesn’t open up gaming the system any more than, say, watching as people playtest/review in the hopes of getting a kickback for their own game. Clearly define what is expected, and penalize abuse.

None of these are mutually exclusive, none require more policing than what’s already in place, none require investment from Microsoft, and all of them can contribute whittling down that excessive queue.

… and with that I’ll end my Pointless Rant.

I’ll get it all back. Piece by piece.

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